It seems that terroir is always used in English as the original in French. Wikipedia proposes a somewhat vague translation:

Terroir can be very loosely translated as "a sense of place"

But is there another word/expression that is also used in place of terroir itself?

  • A quick google indicates terrior appears on several lists of "untranslatable terms" composed by a variety of different parties. When used for its technical sense (i.e. when discussing the niceties of vineyards, vintages, artisanal cheeses, etc) the word is used verbatim, even in English texts. – Dan Bron Jul 21 '15 at 21:50
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    Terroir: oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/terroir. It is a term used mainly with reference to 'wine production', that's why the French term fits so well. dictionary.reference.com/browse/terroir – user66974 Jul 21 '15 at 21:50
  • Logic would seem to call for earthiness, but that means a whole different thing. Locale?, but that seems so vague? – bib Jul 21 '15 at 22:09
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    Everything can be translated (otherwise English speakers wouldn't know what terroir means), just not necessarily exactly. You can use some English words in its place, they just may not be perfect. 'Land', 'the territory', 'the locale', 'the region', others I'm sure could work good enough. – Mitch Jul 21 '15 at 22:26
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    It's translated into English as 'terroir'. Because there was no equivalent term, English has adopted the French term as a loan-word. It's now part of the English lexicon. There is even an alternative anglicised pronunciation available. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 22 '15 at 7:19

It appears there is no alternative 'English' term to terroir given its specific connotations:

  • If you ask a French person to translate the word terroir, their first response will likely be a long pause and a furrowed brow. Not because they’re unfamiliar with the term, but because there’s no word for it in English. Translating terroir requires the use of complete sentences.

  • First things first: the etymology of the word. Terroir comes from terra, Latin for earth. Three core components of terroir are the vine, soil, and climate that produce a grape. But these are only the material aspects.

  • As important is the abstract side of terroir, which is the belief that the combination of the vine, soil, and climate found in a particular plot of land will produce a grape that is unique to that plot.


  • Its usage has considerably increased in recent decades as shown in Ngram.

From: The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass by Jamie Goode

  • "Terroir" is a concept that is rapidly emerging as the unifying concept of fine wine. Once almost exclusively the preserve of the Old World, it's now a talking point in the New World, too.
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It is impossible to say it is NEVER translated but in 40 years of reading about wine I have noticed that it is almost always explained to the English reader. To me that suggests that the wine experts have no corresponding English word.

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I started reading about oysters to think on this. Turns out they're calling it merroir! Amusing.

In any event,

environment -

  1. the aggregate of surrounding things, conditions, or influences; surroundings; milieu.
  2. the air, water, minerals, organisms, and all other external factors surrounding and affecting a given organism at any time.

The issue, though, is that terrior is used to mean the qualities in the wine resulting specifically from environmental factors. So perhaps "environmental traits," but there's a reason English speakers are using terroir as well. It's pithy. Environess? Environessence? Stick with terroir, especially if soil has anything to do with it.

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